Allergan, SpaceX, Fracking Rules: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg) -- Drugmakers are getting more and more nervous that hedge funds have found a way to make money by putting their patents in jeopardy.

Taking advantage of new rules created by Congress three years ago, hedge funds have increasingly been filing challenges to pharmaceutical patents. Some may be angling for payouts to drop their claims, while others are shorting the stock, betting that the manufacturers’ shares will plummet.

Activist investor Kyle Bass sent a shudder through the drug industry this year by embarking on a patent-challenging strategy.

Now a New York hedge fund, Ferrum Ferro Capital LLC, has made an even more brazen move by seeking to invalidate an Allergan Inc. patent that has already been upheld in court. Neither investment firm has said whether it’s betting against specific stocks.

The Allergan case has become a rallying cry for companies calling on Congress to alter rules that make it easier to get patents tossed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office than in the courts.

For more patent news, click here.


SpaceX Releases Photos Shot From Space Through Creative Commons

Elon Musk’s Space Explorations Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX, has followed the pattern he set with his Tesla Motors Corp., the Atlantic reported.

Last year Musk said he would make Tesla patents public in an effort to expand adoption of battery-operated cars, according to the Atlantic.

On March 18 Hawthorne, California’s SpaceX published on its Flickr page a series of photos taken from space and said they were under a Creative Commons license, permitting their free use as long as SpaceX is credited and the work isn’t put up for sale, according to the magazine.

This puts SpaceX in line with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whose space photos have always been in the public domain, unlike photos from space shot by private contractors such as Orbital ATK’s Orbital Sciences and Lockheed Martin Corp., according to the Atlantic.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

New Fracking Rules for Federal Land Promise Less Secrecy

The Obama administration released a set of rules March 20 pertaining to hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on public lands.

In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, chemicals and sand are shot underground to free oil or gas from rock.

According to the new rules, which were four years in the making and released by the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, companies must publicly disclose the chemicals they use through the FracFocus website within 30 days of completing operations.

The rules contain “more stringent requirements related to claims of trade secrets exempt from disclosure” than in the past, according to the 395-page document’s executive summary.


San Francisco’s BART Objects to ‘B.A.R.T.’ Beer Trademark

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit District is fighting a brewery’s application to trademark “B.A.R.T.”

Truckee Craft Brewing, which does business as FiftyFifty Brewing Co., makes whimsically named beers including Donner Party Porter, Leg Lifter Ale and For Peat’s Sake Scotch Ale.

According to the application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database, Truckee proposed “B.A.R.T” to be used with beer. The company offers a beverage known as Barrel Aged Really Tasty.

The transit agency filed an opposition March 16, saying the public is likely to be confused by the similarity of the beer label to BART, the acronym commonly used for the commuter rail system.

The patent and trademark office has given the Truckee, California-based brewery until April 25 to answer, and a trial is set for early next year.

Hilton Head Developers Settle Dispute With Timeshare Law Firm

Hilton Head Island Development Co. and Coral Resorts LLC, developers of timeshare properties on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, settled a trademark dispute with a law firm that specialized in timeshare dispute litigation.

The case was filed in Beaufort, South Carolina, federal court in December. The developers accused Naert & DuBois LLC and owners Joseph DuBois and Zach Naert of using an Internet domain name that allegedly infringed their trademarks.

According to court papers, Naert & DuBois’s focus is litigation related to timeshare disputes, and the firm registered the domain name

The developers also objected to the firm’s purchase of Internet search engine keywords that contain the resort trademarks. They said that when consumers search for Hilton Head Island properties they’ve developed, ads for the firm’s timeshare-related litigation practice pop up.

Some of the ads read “Ripped off? Lied to? Scammed?” and “Timeshare Attorney HH,SC -- Ripped off on Hilton Head Island?” according to the complaint.

The developers said they were harmed by the firm’s actions and sought money damages as well as a court order banning the use of their trademarks by the law firms.

The order of dismissal was filed March 19. No details were given other than that each party was to bear its own costs. According to the order, the court was advised by counsel for the parties that the dispute had been settled.

The case is Hilton Head Island Development Co. v. DuBois, 9:13-cv-03510, U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina (Beaufort).

For more trademark news, click here.


Smartdata SA, a Swiss maker of wireless connectivity devices, sued Inc. for patent infringement.

The complaint, filed March 19 in San Francisco federal court, accused the Seattle-based retail giant of infringing patent 7,158,757. That patent, issued in January 2007, covers a modular computer.

Smartdata said that Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick, when working with a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device, together with a television or other audio/video display, infringe the patent.

The Swiss company requested a court order barring further infringement, together with money damages no less than a “reasonable royalty” as well as attorney fees and litigation costs. didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Smartdata SA v. Inc., 15-cv-01282, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at David Glovin

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.